The most difficult, heartbreaking part of my job is seeing people who need help (desperately, in some cases) who either don’t recognize it, who are in denial about it or avoiding it, or just aren’t yet willing to work at changing things. It’s tough. I think I’m a compassionate person; but I’m also a realist. I feel for your financial problems; but they will not go away on their own. They just won’t, which means that you cannot run from them. Your financial problems will chase you– and they have an endless gas tank. Your financial problems are the T-800.
This all comes to mind because I saw someone today at the credit union that I have counseled in the past. This day, he was in the process of ultimately being denied for a loan by one of our loan officers. I’d met with him only once before. At the time that we met, he shared with me plenty of reasons to make changes. He felt like he was constantly behind. He felt like he didn’t know where his money was going. We sat down and built a budget together and the numbers actually looked really good. That usually indicates a spending and/or discipline issue. We chatted about how to move forward and break the cycle. I’d like to think I gave him good information and good tools to turn things around and we talked about meeting again a month or two down the road. I never heard from him again. Instead of making another appointment, here we are, instead. He’s still in trouble, wanting to take on even more debt to try and “fix” his current problem, despite all we talked about. He already can’t seem to keep up with the monthly expenses but he now wants another monthly payment for a loan in the mix.
Honestly, I think it’s very sad. It’s the great mystery of the human race, to me: Why don’t we do right by and for ourselves like we should?
The entire field of psychology strives to answer that question, among others (and won’t likely ever discover a definitive one.) I don’t presume to have any answers for it, myself. I don’t know why it’s so hard sometimes to simply make the right choices in life. There’s an awful lot about life that I just don’t know.
But here’s something I know all too well: I can’t help anyone who isn’t willing to help him or herself. It’s something I still struggle to accept as a counselor. It’s hard for me, in general, to see a problem and to know what the solution is; but not be able to implement it. I don’t enjoy feeling powerless. I don’t like seeing a situation that I know I could impact in a positive way if only the person I’m working with would jump on board with the plan. As much as the people I counsel depend on me to steer them in the right direction(s), I, too, depend on my members to actually want things to be different (and to be willing to put in the work to make what they want become a new reality.)
There are elements of being a counselor in which I don’t relate to my clients as well as I could. I sympathize more than I empathize. For example, I try not to run from things. I try to embrace the struggles in my life. Maya Angelou said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” I think there is a lot of truth and wisdom in those quotes (and the countless others you can quickly pull up on Google.) Because I believe in that wisdom, I tend to run toward challenges, instead of away from them. Of course, I’m not perfect. I do have moments where I wilt. I have moments where I ignore something I shouldn’t. But, for the most part, if I have awareness of something that needs to be worked on, I get to work on it. So, I don’t completely understand the mindset that ignores problems or, worse yet, knowingly chooses to make problems worse instead of trying to make them better.
Like I said, though, I think I’m a compassionate person. I have sympathy for people. If I didn’t, I’d definitely be in the wrong line of work. So I will continue to try to not only understand peoples’ obstacles to change but to help them get past those obstacles, too. That being said, who knows? Maybe I’m at fault in some way, myself. I have no doubt that I can be a better counselor (I’m sure that’s true– we can always grow at everything in life.) I can continue to get better at motivating others. But there is no substitute for someone being willing to help him or herself because, so far, I’m a better coach than I am a salesperson.
But that brings me back to the original question. Do we really need to be sold on doing what is right and best for ourselves? Don’t we already know that we need a change? Be honest with yourself. Don’t you wish things were different? Well, then let’s give change a chance. Things can be different; but you have to be willing to help yourself.
The odds of winning the lottery are about 1 in 175 million and, if you’re counting on a lump sum of money like that to show up on your doorstep and “solve” your problems for you, you’re in a tough spot. You are about 17 times more likely to be elected President of the United States than to experience cashing in on the jackpot. Getting one more loan or another credit card is probably just going to get you deeper into trouble (unless your new loan is part of a greater plan where you are already helping yourself.) Diving into a debt cycle like that isn’t just robbing Peter to pay Paul— it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul only to then immediately rob Paul to pay Patrick, leaving you still indebted to both Peter and Paul…
You’d be so much better off answering the call and taking up the challenge because things can be different. You can have different results. You can rebound from defeat by not being defeated. You can get yourself out of your troubles; but you can’t get out through wishing or miracles. You get yourself out of trouble through instituting change– and lasting change is built on new attitudes and new actions. Please be willing to choose to do the right thing for yourself, for your peace of mind, and for your financial present and future. I’m here to help you do those very things.